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A Metropolis Rising: The Growth of Downtown Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s

The 1950s and 1960s were transformative decades for Downtown Los Angeles, as the city experienced rapid growth and urbanization. This period witnessed a confluence of economic, social, and cultural changes that shaped the city's skyline and cemented its position as a vibrant metropolis. By exploring the factors that fueled this growth, such as economic prosperity, infrastructure development, and demographic shifts, we can gain a comprehensive understanding of Downtown Los Angeles's evolution during these two pivotal decades.

One of the key catalysts for Downtown Los Angeles's growth in the 1950s and 1960s was the city's robust economic prosperity. Following the end of World War II, the United States experienced an unprecedented period of economic expansion, and Los Angeles was at the forefront of this boom. Industries such as aerospace, manufacturing, and entertainment thrived, attracting businesses and workers to the city. As a result, Downtown Los Angeles became a hub for commerce and trade.

The growth of the entertainment industry, with Hollywood at its center, played a significant role in attracting investment and stimulating economic activity. The film and television industry boomed during this period, fostering the creation of numerous production studios, offices, and theaters in Downtown Los Angeles. This concentration of entertainment-related businesses brought with it a surge in employment opportunities and a vibrant cultural scene, further fueling the city's growth.

Another crucial factor that shaped Downtown Los Angeles during the 1950s and 1960s was the emphasis on infrastructure development and urban renewal. The city embarked on ambitious projects to modernize its urban landscape, enhancing accessibility and connectivity. The construction of freeways, such as the Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110) and the Santa Ana Freeway (Interstate 5), facilitated easier access to and from Downtown Los Angeles, attracting commuters and businesses alike.

Urban renewal initiatives were also undertaken to revitalize aging neighborhoods and improve the city's aesthetics. Bunker Hill, a prominent area in Downtown Los Angeles, underwent a significant transformation during this period. The once-dilapidated neighborhood was cleared to make way for modern high-rise buildings, luxury hotels, and cultural institutions like the Music Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center. This revitalization project not only reshaped the city's skyline but also attracted new residents and businesses to the area.

The demographic shifts and the phenomenon of suburbanization that characterized the 1950s and 1960s played a pivotal role in the growth of Downtown Los Angeles. As more people moved to the suburbs, seeking larger homes and a more tranquil lifestyle, the city's core faced a decline in population. However, this shift prompted urban planners and policymakers to invest in downtown revitalization efforts to counteract the exodus.

To attract residents back to Downtown Los Angeles, initiatives were implemented to create a more livable and desirable urban environment. Parks, recreational spaces, and cultural amenities were developed to enhance the quality of life for residents. The creation of the iconic Pershing Square, the establishment of the Los Angeles Music Center, and the construction of the modernist architectural marvel, the Bradbury Building, were all part of the city's efforts to make downtown a vibrant and attractive place to live and work.

The growth of Downtown Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s was a result of various intertwined factors, including economic prosperity, infrastructure development, and demographic shifts. The city's economic boom, driven by industries like aerospace and entertainment, attracted businesses, fostering a thriving commercial district. Infrastructure development, such as the construction of freeways,improved accessibility and connectivity, while urban renewal projects transformed the city's landscape.

Moreover, Downtown Los Angeles responded to the challenges posed by suburbanization by reinventing itself as a vibrant urban center, offering cultural amenities, parks, and recreational spaces to attract residents back to the city core.

The legacy of this era is evident in the modern-day Downtown Los Angeles, with its iconic skyline, bustling streets, and diverse cultural offerings. The growth and transformation experienced in the 1950s and 1960s laid the foundation for the city's continued evolution as a dynamic metropolis, reflecting the ever-changing nature of urban environments and their ability to adapt and flourish.


Pic 1: The corner of Grand and Court - 1956. The Stanley Mosk Courthouse would open two years later.

Pic 2: Aerial of the excavation for the new ARCO Plaza (now City National Plaza) right after the demolition of my beloved Richfield Tower - 1969. The ARCO Towers would be the tallest in the city between 1972-1974.

Pic 3: Looking north on Grand towards the newly completed One Wilshire Building (about a year old at this point) and the Crocker Citizens Bank Building which is under construction - 1967. When the Crocker building opened it held the top spot for LA's tallest building between 1969-1972.

Pic 4: the LADWP Building under construction - 1963.

Pic 5: 6th and Flower back in 1966. The two buildings under construction in the background are the City National Bank building on the left and the One Wilshire

Building is peeking out to the right.

Pic 6: Looking down what was Court Street towards the old Hall of Records and City Hall - 1957.

Pic 7: The Union Bank Building going up - 1966. When completed - the building would be the tallest in the city (and first to surpass City Hall's long-standing height


Pic 8: The framework of the Union Oil Center as seen from Bunker Hill - 1957.

Pic 9: Looking east on Wilshire across the Harbor

Freeway with the Tishman Building under construction at Flower - 1960.

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